January 2012

BY AMADO P. MACASAET
MALAYA

‘Like those who speak without thinking, Corona confirmed that he is nothing more than a political partisan.’

AS he was about to be impeached, Chief Justice Renato Corona dramatically stepped out of the Supreme Court to address his loyal minions. His message was loud and clear: Bring it on!

Like a small town mayor addressing a party caucus in front of the town hall, Corona that day shed every veneer of judicial statesmanship.

Using crude rhetoric worthy of the gutter and condescension typical of a small claims lawyer, Corona virtually called PNoy dumb and stupid several times in his speech. The clueless partisan crowd laughed and cheered him on.

Like those who speak without thinking, Corona failed to realize that the joke was actually on him.

Corona sealed his fate with his belligerent tone. He confirmed that he is nothing more than a political partisan who let politics seep into the judiciary. With his speech, he willingly entered the political arena to joust with a politician who had just won an election in overwhelming fashion and managed the rare feat of keeping his popularity after assuming office.

If anything, Corona confirmed that magistrates are better read than heard.

A magistrate is better off speaking through their decisions. The worthy ones write decisions that display their erudition. Jurisprudence they pen shaped the evolution of our laws. In well written prose, they showcase their legal philosophy. In their decisions, they marry the facts with the law in the grandest fashion, in full glory and majesty of the law.

Corona fails in this class of jurists as much as he deserves his fake doctorate degree summa cum laude.

As in his bellicose speeches, one decision written by Corona has come back to haunt him in his own trial.

In 2003, Corona penned a decision against the Marcoses and found them to have amassed ill-gotten wealth. To justify a speedy resolution of the case, Corona wrote: “This Court has set aside technicalities and formalities that merely serve to delay or impede judicious resolution x x x substantial justice to the Filipino people and to all parties concerned, not mere legalisms or perfection of form, should now be relentlessly pursued. x x x If there is proof of illegal acquisition, accumulation, misappropriation, fraud or illicit conduct, let it be brought out now.”

Sound advice that Corona should give his obstructionist defense lawyers in his own trial today.

In the same decision, Corona also seemed to lecture the prosecution on how to establish that a government official has amassed ill-gotten wealth.

The prescient Corona argued that between the government and the Marcoses, the latter were in a better position to know if they had other sources of lawful income. Hence, if indeed there was such other lawful income, the Marcoses should have specifically stated the same in their Answer.

Contrary to his own ruling, however, Corona did not specifically allege any other source or lawful income in his answer to the impeachment complaint. Corona has shown the prosecution why his own answer is fatally flawed.

Beyond this, Corona also taught the prosecution a simple formula to establish legal presumption of ill-gotten wealth against him. All that they need to do is to: (I) establish his ownership of money or property acquired during his incumbency, whether in his name or otherwise; and (2) determine the extent to which the amount of that money or property exceeds, or is grossly disproportionate to, his legitimate income.

Simple enough.

Thankfully, the prosecution seems to be heeding Corona’s advise at the rate they are presenting their evidence. It may be good for the defense lawyers to heed Corona’s advice as well.

That leaves us with the senator judges. Now that the tables have been turned, it makes me wonder if Senator Judge Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. will also listen to Corona and apply the same simple formula against him.

As for Corona, he seems to have finally listened to his own words and realized that the best way to keep his foot out of his mouth is to keep it shut.

Unless of course he is about to say – No mas! No mas as boxer Duran shouted in the ring even without having been floored.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/02012012/edmacasaet.html

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PERRY’S NOTE: I’ve been wondering what “FMD” means? So I googled it and here’s what I found in Urban Dictionary >> FMD

January 31, 2012 6:33pm

Call to order

  • The trial resumed at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Price of Corona penthouse reduced due to damage, not discount

  • Witness Noli Hernandez, senior vice president for marketing at Megaworld Corporation, testified that the Bellagio Tower I penthouse purchased by Chief Justice Renato Corona’s wife Cristina in 2008 had a steep reduction in price from P24 million to P19.6 million because of “water damage” following a typhoon. The price was further slashed by P3 million, or the standard 15-20 percent discount, because Corona paid “almost in cash” and on a “shorter term” of less than a year.
  • Private prosecutor Joseph Joemer Perez asked whether it was the usual practice of Megaworld to sell damaged units, drastically reduce its prices, or give big discounts. He also asked if the company had filed insurance claims after the condominium was damaged by the typhoon.
  • The presiding officer cautioned Perez about his manner of asking questions. Enrile clarified that a price reduction is different from a discount: the condition of the unit is a reason for reducing the price, while a discount is a privilege extended to the buyer.
  • During the cross-examination by lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas, Hernandez said Megaworld could have given the same price reduction to any customer. Hernandez added that he did not know at the time that it was Chief Justice Corona who bought the penthouse.

Senators ask: What’s the connection?

  • Senator-judges Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Pia Cayetano questioned the relevance of the 40-percent price reduction for the Corona condominium unit to Article II, which alleges Corona of nondisclosure of some properties in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs).
  • The presiding officer said he allowed the prosecution to present Hernandez as witness “out of liberality.”
  • House prosecutor Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. explained that Hernandez’s testimony was related to the valuation of the property, as Corona did not indicate the acquisition cost of P14.5 million in his SALN. Instead, Corona said the current fair market value of the Bellagio condominium unit was P6.8 million.
  • Senator-judge Manny Villar said there are many factors considered in pricing, and volunteered the information that another real estate company offered a 40 percent discount just last December.
  • Senator-judge Alan Peter Cayetano said Hernandez’s testimony was needed to explain the “discount” alleged by the prosecution.

Zonal value vs. fair market value

  • Senator-judge Franklin Drilon cited jurisprudence where the Supreme Court held that the disclosure in the SALN is not merely a ministerial act but must be done under oath, and be truthful, accurate, and timely. Senator-judge Teofisto Guingona III asked the House prosecution panel if Corona had complied with these three elements of disclosure in SALNs.
  • In reply, Perez said the P14.5 million purchase of the Bellagio penthouse was not reflected in Corona’s 2009 SALN, despite the deed of absolute sale executed that year. Although the property was later reflected in Corona’s 2010 SALN, he said the fair market value of the penthouse was written down as only P6.8 million which, it was surmised, was only the zonal value. He affirmed that Corona’s SALN did not meet any of the three elements of disclosure because the zonal value is different from fair market value.

Recto suggests change in order of trial presentation

  • Senator Ralph Recto asked if the defense panel could be allowed to present evidence immediately after each article of impeachment, without waiting for the prosecution to present evidence for all eight articles.
  • Presiding officer Enrile explained that under existing rules, the defense can only present evidence after the prosecution finishes presenting theirs for all the eight Articles of Impeachment. He added that changing the Senate Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Trials would need an amendment and the republication of the rules.

Proof of damage

  • Senator-judge Sergio Osmeña III asked Hernandez to produce proof of the damage in the condominium unit bought by Corona, including photos. He also asked Hernandez to verify if Megaworld filed complaints against the firm who constructed the damaged condominium unit. In addition, he asked for a price list of all condominium units at the Bellagio Tower I.
  • Senator-judge Francis Pangilinan told Hernandez to voluntarily submit to the Senate the building engineer’s report on the damage sustained by the penthouse during the typhoon.

Megaworld lost in SC cases

  • Senator-judge Francis Escudero asked the Megaworld executive if Bellagio was sold “at a loss” to the Coronas. Hernandez replied that Megaworld made a “little profit” from the sale.
  • In response to further queries, Hernandez said Corona voted against Megaworld Corp. in at least two cases, even if the chief justice and his family had purchased properties from Megaworld twice. He said the Corona family bought Megaworld properties in 2006 but the real estate company “lost a case right after 2007 and then he bought again from [the company] in 2008 and then [the company] lost again a case in the Supreme Court in 2009.
  • Senator-judge Panfilo Lacson, however, clarified that Megaworld only lost in one of the cases because they appealed the decision. He also pointed out that in the 2004 SC decision where Megaworld had lost, the compromise agreement was reversed in the real estate company’s favor.
  • Upon further inquiry by Lacson, Hernandez said that he did not know of any other cases involving Megaworld still pending before the Supreme Court.

‘Let go of the discount issue’

  • On the valuation of the Bellagio penthouse, Lacson pointed out that only the city assessor of Taguig City can give the fair market value of the unit.
  • Asked by Lacson, House prosecutor Rep. Barzaga admitted that no one in the prosecution panel has the competence in determining whether the fair market value reflected in Corona’s SALN is true and accurate.
  • Senator-judge Aquilino Pimentel III strongly suggested to the House prosecution panel to “let go” of the discount issue when Article III is taken up later in trial. He said that the acceptance of a discount has absolutely nothing to do with that article of impeachment.
  • Asked by Senator-judge Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., Hernandez admitted that aside from the 15 percent discount, Megaworld extended Corona a P1 million discount to bring the purchase price of the Bellagio unit to P14.5 million.

Del Castillo impeachment case still pending

  • Senator-judge Joker Arroyo asked whether there was another impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives. House lead prosecutor Tupas, as the House Justice Committee chair, said that the impeachment complaint against SC Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo was still pending at the committee level.

Adjournment

  • Tuesday’s session was adjourned at 5:05 pm.
  • It will resume at 2 pm Wednesday.

— Marlon Anthony Tonson/VS/YA, GMA News

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/246368/news/specialreports/day-9-highlights-of-corona-impeachment-trial-at-the-senate

January 30, 2012 6:24pm

Call to order

  • The trial resumed at 2:01 p.m. Monday.
  • Senator-judges Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Sergio Osmeña were absent.

Trillanes likens impeachment to PMA ‘honor’ trial 

  • Senator-judge Antonio Trillanes IV compared the impeachment trial at the Senate to Honor Committee trials at his alma mater, the Philippine Military Academy, where only the unanimous decision by an eight-man jury can convict an accused cadet, not technicalities or lawyers.
  • He said will apply a “basic sense of justice” in determining the moral fitness of the impeached chief justice who must “possess the highest possible moral standards for public officials.”
  • Trillanes said the presentation of evidence even before Chief Justice Renato Corona was appointed as head of the Supreme Court should be allowed.

Protecting constitutional rights of Corona, family members

  • The Senate Secretary, as the clerk of court of the impeachment court, read the Senate resolution disallowing developers from presenting  evidence that are not related to Corona and members of his family, so as not to violate their right to privacy and not subject them to unreasonable search and seizure.
  • She also read the impeachment court’s decision to disallow the introduction of evidence on Article 2.4 on ill-gotten wealth. Instead, the court will rely on legal presumptions on the properties of the respondent.

New order of presentation and list of witnesses

  • Presiding officer Juan Ponce Enrile allowed the request of lead House prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. to tackle Article III – which accuses Corona of lack of integrity, independence and competence – before Articles I and VII, as the prosecution had earlier stipulated.
  • The prosecution team said the articles of impeachment against Corona will be presented in this order:
    • Article II (nondisclosure of Corona’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth),
    • Article III (Corona’s alleged lack of integrity, independence and competence),
    • Article I (partiality and subservience to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed Corona as chief justice)
    • Article VII (supposed irregularities in the granting temporary restraining order to Mrs. Arroyo last November).
    • Article VIII (failure and refusal to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary),
    • Article IV (disregard of the principle of separation of powers by issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives during the impeachment proceedings against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez),
    • Article V (deciding in favor of gerry-mandering in the cases involving 16 newly-created cities and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province), and
    • Article VI (creation of an ethics committee to probe the plagiarism case of Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo).
  • Senator-judge Vicente Sotto III read a letter from Senator-judge Miriam Defensor Santiago requesting both the prosecution and defense teams to provide a list of primary and corroborating witnesses during the trial, as a prelude to cutting down the number to a manageable level. Senator-judge Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. also expressed concern about the list of 100 witnesses submitted by the prosecution.
  • Tupas clarified that the prosecution will not present all 100 witnesses.
  • To avoid lengthy presentations of evidence, the presiding officer directed both panels to stipulate elements of the case that do not need further authentication or proof.

Corona gets 40% discount from Megaworld

  • Megaworld Corp. finance director Giovanni Ng was called to the witness stand. Private Prosecutor Joseph Joemer Perez, who conducted the direct examination, said Ng’s testimony would focus on The Bellagio condominium penthouse of Corona and his wife, and the McKinley Hills transaction with their daughter that the impeached chief justice failed to disclose in his 2009 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
  • Ng produced the contract to sell Unit 38-B with 3 parking slots, which was sold for P14 million by Megaworld to the Corona couple, and official receipts of the transaction. He also produced the deed of absolute sale of the McKinley Hill property of Charina Corona, represented by her attorney-in-fact, Renato Corona, her father.
  •  Asked about the price of the Bellagio penthouse unit, Ng said he was not qualified to answer the question because pricing was the function of the marketing department. Prosecutor Perez requested the impeachment court to subpoena Megaworld Corp.’s senior vice president for marketing.
  • When asked by Senator-judge Aquilino Pimentel III why the prosecution was focusing on the prices of the real estate, Perez said Ng had informed the prosecution that the Coronas received a 40 percent discount – amounting to P10 million – on their purchases. Perez said receiving discounts falls under Article III.
  • In response to a query from Senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada, Ng explained that Megaworld Corp. usually gives 15-percent discounts to unit buyers if they pay on shorter terms. He added that Corona was given a bigger discount because the Bellagio unit he bought needed repairs.
  • Answering another question from Senator-judge Franklin Drilon, Ng said Megaworld gave Corona’s daughter, Charina, a P2.3-million discount on the purchase of a P6.2-million McKinley Hill property in Taguig City which her parents paid for. Ng said Charina’s name did not appear in any of the receipts, and “a single hand-written letter” from the Chief Justice requested that the property be named under his daughter.

Corona paid in cash for P9.1-M Bonifacio Ridge condominium

  • Private prosecutor Jose Antonio Hernandez conducted the direct examination of real estate developer Aniceto Visnar Jr., formerly of the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation.
  • Bisnar confirmed the sale of a P9.1-million condominium unit on the 19th floor of the Spanish Bay Tower in Bonifacio Ridge in Taguig City to the Corona couple, which was fully paid in cash on October 14, 2005.
  • The prosecution noted that the Spanish Bay unit supports the claim that Corona failed to properly disclose his properties in his SALN, as alleged in Article II. In his 2010 SALN, Corona declared that he purchased a condominium unit in 2004 in Taguig City worth P2.3 million.
  • During cross-examination, defense counsel Ramon Esguerra pointed out the absence of any notice of acceptance of the purchased unit by Cristina Corona. He also noted Bisnar’s unfamiliarity with the Spanish Bay Tower unit, and said Bisnar would not know whether the money used by Cristina to pay for the unit had been sourced from a loan.

Adjournment

  • Monday’s sessions was adjourned at 5:55 pm.
  • The trial will resume at 2 p.m. Tuesday, 31 January.

— Marlon Anthony R. Tonson/VS/YA, GMA News

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/246260/news/specialreports/day-8-highlights-of-corona-impeachment-trial-at-the-senate

By Christina Mendez and Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

Photo is loading...
Megaworld executive Noli Hernandez testifies at the
impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona at
the Senate yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – Megaworld Corp. denied yesterday that the P10-million price reduction it gave Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife for a penthouse in the Bellagio condominium in Taguig City was in exchange for favorable Supreme Court (SC) decisions involving the real estate company.

“Some of these allegations purport to allege that the sale of the units mentioned in the impeachment proceedings were in consideration for favors received or requested from the Court. These allegations are completely baseless and malicious,” Megaworld said in a statement.

The real estate company said the SC’s decisions would show that Megaworld “never requested nor obtained any favor from anyone in the Court, including the Chief Justice who is presently standing trial.”

On the ninth day of the trial yesterday, lawyer Noli Hernandez, senior vice president for marketing of Megaworld, reiterated that no favor was given to the Corona couple in the sale of Unit 38-B.

Hernandez said the unit was water-damaged after a typhoon and the economic situation was not good in 2008, which prompted the company to cut the price by about 40 percent.

“The discount was not any favor but a force majeure?” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile asked Hernandez, who replied, “That is correct.”

The Megaworld executive said the unit was semi-bare and “was the last unit in that particular building.”

Hernandez said the original amount was slashed by P5 million, after the firm deemed that the penthouse unit needed “drastic” modification after it was “damaged” by a typhoon.

“It was going to cost us more to have it redone. It was more economical for us than have it drastically redone. From P24 million, it was adjusted to P19.6 million,” he explained.

Hernandez  repeatedly said that the Corona unit sustained water damage because there was a typhoon. “When we were computing the refinishing… along came our client, basically… this gave us more ‘economic’ reasons for us to sell it…,” he said.

During  the trial, private prosecutor Joseph Joemar Perez asked Hernandez if it was common practice for Megaworld to reduce the original  amount by P10 million, to which Hernandez said it was “highly uncommon.”

“(It was) highly uncommon because of the circumstances already. It was  first time that a penthouse unit was sold like this… Normally, we never would have given a P5-million discount,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez’s statement seemed to have demolished the argument of the prosecution which has focused on insinuations that the Chief Justice may have violated the judicial canons of good conduct when he received such huge discount from Megaworld.

But the prosecution panel said the issue was also relevant for them because it shows how Corona was not truthful in the filing of his SALN.  “The three condominiums reflected in his 2011 SALNs, when at that time, he was already in danger of impeachment,” said prosecution spokesman Marikina Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo.

Rep. Erin Tañada noted that April 2010 is the filing for the SALN in 2009 wherein the Bellagio properties should have already been declared. Records showed that the Corona couple were able to fully pay the Bellagio by the last quarter of 2009.

In reaction to the witness’ testimony, Quimbo said the Megaworld executive was not saying the exact truth.

“The witness never said that the discount was actually given to others. There was no categorical statement that the discount was given to somebody else. They just said that in that point in time, it could have been given to somebody else,” Quimbo added.

In a press conference, Quimbo also raised questions on how Corona was able to pay in three installments for his Bellagio unit and yet he also reduced his loan from the Basa-Quidote Enterprises.

The Chief Justice had cited a number of multimillion-peso “cash advances” and/or loans to the Basa-Quidote Enterprises which he stated in his SALN as his wife’s family corporation.

Megaworld referred to three cases namely, Megaworld Properties and Holdings Inc. vs. Hon. Judge Benedicto Cobarde (G.R. No. 156200 – 2004); Megaworld Globus Asia, Inc. vs. Celerica Holdings, Inc. (G.R. No. 175391 – 2007); and Megaworld Globus Asia, Inc. vs. Tanseco (G.R. No. 181206 – 2009).

According to Megaworld, although Justice Corona wrote the decision in its favor (four years before the penthouse purchase), in 2007 and 2009, or the years before and after the purchase of the Bellagio unit, the Court issued an adverse decision dismissing their petitions and even made the company pay damages amounting to P26 million and P21,725,438.02 million to the respondents, respectively.

Cross-examination

Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Manny Villar, Franklin Drilon, TG Guingona, Sergio Osmeña, Ralph Recto, and  Panfilo Lacson used their two-minute time to question the witness or clarify some matters.

At one point, Sen. Pia Cayetano also questioned the relevance of Hernandez’s testimony on the price of the Bellagio unit to Article 2 of the eight articles of impeachment which dealt with the nondisclosure of SALN.

Sen. Marcos raised a point of order on the issue of the price, saying that his question “Goes directly to my duties as a senator judge when I vote for Article 2.”

Marcos asked what the issue on price reduction on the issue of non-disclosure in the SALN.  “How does this testimony impact on the issue (at hand?)” he said.

Sen. Franklin Drilon  helped clarified that the issue of the SALN entails “a truthful and accurate disclosure thereof.”

“The filing is not a ministerial act… It is the filing of a truthful assets, liabilities and net worth,” Drilon said, citing a number of cases decided by the Supreme Court.

“It is clear from this jurisprudence… that the SALN must be accurate, truthful and binding,” Drilon said.

During the trial, Drilon’s party mate at the Liberal Party, Sen. Guingona also noted the need to establish three elements of disclosure under the SALN law, which are truthfulness, accuracy, and timeliness.

“Has it been truthful? Has it been accurate? Has it been timely,” Guingona asked.

Sen. Alan Cayetano pointed out that the reduced price should not be used in a trial outside the courtroom and before the bar of public opinion.

Cayetano asked the witness directly if the “grant” of the discount was in any way connected to the cases of Megaworld, which could have been pending or were resolved by the Supreme Court.

“We have actually lost two cases in the Supreme Court,” Hernandez said.

Sen. Ralph Recto cited documents including the certificate authorizing registration (CAR) which stated the selling price at P14.5 million. Recto also noted that entry in the CAR which reflected the market zonal value at some P6 million, which corresponded to the value indicated by the Chief Justice in his 2010 SALN.

But public prosecutor Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. argued that the Bellagio property is a subject matter under Article 2, while a prosecution spokesperson maintained that the SALN should reflect the actual acquisition cost, not the zonal value.

Barzaga pointed out that there are seven other properties in Marikina City which did not reflect in the chief magistrate’s SALN.

Recto noted that there were actually five properties mentioned in his SALN.

Sen. Alan Cayetano also took note that Megaworld is a publicly listed company, and the court should be “responsible” before making sweeping accusations.

Prior to this, the prosecution panel tried to call  Director Benito Catalan, of the Securities Exchange Commission after Rep. Niel Tupas, lead prosecutor, reiterated his appeal to the court on the submission of the list of witnesses.

“They way we understood we have the whole day. We will submit it today,” lead defense counsel Serafin Cuevas said.  “All the while I have the impression that you will provide it as evidence,” Cuevas added.

“Henceforth the parties would supply the other party of any pleading or any document that they will submit to the court,” Enrile ordered.

It was at this point that Cuevas asked the court on why the prosecution was again jumping from one witness to another. – With Edu Punay

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=773220&publicationSubCategoryId=63

By David Dizon
ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – A member of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s defense team admitted Tuesday that there were “inaccuracies” in Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) when he belatedly declared several real estate properties years after they were acquired.

Former justice undersecretary Ramon Esguerra said the Chief Justice acquired a condo unit at Spanish Bay Tower, Bonifacio Ridge in 2005 and another condo unit at The Bellagio, Taguig in 2008 but only declared both properties in 2010. The Bonifacio Ridge property was purchased for P9 million; The Bellagio unit P14 million.

Esguerra said Corona broke no law when he disclosed ownership of the real estate properties belatedly in his SALN.

“It was disclosed although belatedly but does that constitute violation of the law insofar as SALN filing is concerned? It does not. Even the law allows a corrective measure if a filer of a SALN does not accurately reflect what should be reflected in his SALN,” he told Mornings@ANC.

Esguerra said that under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, there is a pertinent provision that a filer must be informed about inaccuracies in his SALN and allowed to correct it.

He added that under this particular provision, “no liability for perjury attaches” for inaccuracies in the filing of SALN.

Asked if Corona lied in his SALN because he belatedly declared his properties, Esguerra said: “Not really lying. It is really up to the filer. But in the case of the Chief Justice, he did not lie.”

He also said that it should the Supreme Court clerk of court that should inform the Chief Justice about inaccuracies in his SALN.

“[It] should really be perhaps the custodian which is the clerk of court. (How would the clerk of court know?) That is precisely the issue. As far as the Senate is concerned it should be the Senate President. In this case, it should be the Chief Justice. Over the years, he was not still Chief Justice. In the case of the House of Representatives, it is the Speaker. It is the head of the office that tells you that there is something wrong (with your SALN),” he said.

“In this particular case, they say there are inaccuracies in the SALN entries. That’s fine with us. The basic fact remains that there was filing,” he added.

Fair market value

Esguerra also defended Corona from allegations that he underdeclared the value of his real estate properties.

In his 2010 SALN, Corona declared that his condo unit in Taguig bought in 2004 had an assessed value of P1,421,990 while it has a current fair market value of P2,369,980.

Another condo unit acquired in 2010 had an assessed value of P3,496,320 and a current fair market value of 6,800,000.

Esguerra said that in looking at the SALN, “you really have to look into the practice of each one and how they overdeclare and underdeclare and what basis if any do they use insofar as the value of their assets are concerned.”

He noted that the prosecutors withdrew the appearance of 4 assessors who were set to testify in the trial because they were supposed to talk about the market value of the properties.

He said the assessors were set to testify “on the values on the basis of the tax declarations that they have on file. When we compared the values in the tax declarations and the SALN declaration, they match.”

Esguerra said the only issue regarding Corona’s SALNs is if his properties and assets were declared.

“Yes (they were declared). Were the values correct? In time, we will show that the values were correct. Truthfully? Why not truthfully if your basis is a public document which is the tax declarations?” he said.

No favor for Megaworld

The lawyer, meanwhile, said he sees nothing wrong with Megaworld giving Corona a 40% discount on the price of The Bellagio condo.

He said Megaworld finance director Giovanni Ng already said clients could get a 15% discount or higher if they pay for the units quickly.

Ng also told the Senate impeachment court that Megaworld gave a higher discount due to the onset of the global financial crisis and several finishing issues with the condo unit.

Esguerra noted that fair market value is determined by the price set by the seller and the price a buyer is willing to pay.

He also admitted that Corona penned a decision favoring Megaworld in a case brought before the Supreme Court in 2004.

“After 5 years, Megaworld must have taken that into consideration in giving the 40% price adjustment. But you know, in 2009 after about the time the particular unit in Bellagio was sold, there was another case. The first one Megaworld won. This one, Megaworld lost. And this was about the time of the sale. It was decided and penned by current Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and concurred in by Renato Corona,” he said.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/01/31/12/defense-admits-inaccuracies-corona-saln

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

RELATED STORY:

‘Coronas shelled out P9-M in 1 month for Spanish Bay condo’

By David Dizon
ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife, Cristina, paid P9.1 million in just 1 month to buy a 113.02-square-meter condominium unit at 1902 Spanish Bay Tower, Bonifacio Ridge in Taguig City in 2004, a prosecution witness said on Monday.

Ayala Land Vice-President Aniceto Bisnar Jr. said the chief justice issued a cheque for P2.2 million on March 31, 2004 to Ayala-led Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. (FBDC) for the Spanish Bay Tower unit.

On April 30, 2004 or one month later, Mrs. Corona issued another cheque to FBDC for P6.9 million.

Bisnar said the chief justice also issued two separate checks amounting to P200,000 and P900,000 for the value-added tax and other transaction taxes of the real estate property.

Bisnar said the purchase of the Spanish Bay Tower unit is considered a “cash payment term” since the unit was paid in full immediately, and not on installment basis.

He said the unit was registered under the name of Cristina Corona.

House prosecutors have accused Corona of failing to disclose his ownership of several real estate properties in Metro Manila allegedly amounting to more than P200 million, an amount grossly disproportionate to his income as a member of the highest court in the land.

Among these properties are the pricey condominium units at the Bellagio Tower and Bonifacio Ridge in Taguig City, The Columns in Makati City, Burgundy Plaza in Quezon City, and a house and lot in La Vista Subdivision, also in Quezon City.

During his testimony, Bisnar said he does not know if the Spanish Bay condo unit was included in Corona’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

He also admitted that he no longer has the original certificate of acceptance by the Coronas of the condo unit since the transaction happened 7 years ago.

On Monday’s hearing, Makati City Register of Deeds Constante Caluya Jr. also testified on Mrs. Corona’s ownership of a 48-square-meter unit with parking lot at the Ayala-owned The Columns on Ayala corner Buendia Avenues.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/01/30/12/coronas-shelled-out-p9-m-1-month-spanish-bay-condo

By Carmela Fonbuena
Rappler.com

MANILA, Philippines – On Tuesday, January 31, the prosecution panel will tackle the Basa Guidote Enterprises Inc (BGEI), the now-moribund company owned by the family of Cristina Corona, wife of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Basa Guidote was managed by Cristina Corona. In his 2003 Statement of Asset, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), the Chief Justice declared an P11-million loan from the company.

He said the loan was used to buy a 1,200-sq-m lot in the posh La Vista subdivision in Quezon City in September 2003.

In his SALN, Corona declared that he bought the lot for only P3-M. A deed of absolute sale however shows that the property was purchased for P11-M.

Corona’s SALNs indicate that he started paying back the loan in 2005. It went down to P10-million in 2005; P8-million in 2006; P6.5-million in 2007; P5-million in 2008; P3-million in 2009.

The loan was apparently fully paid by 2010, since it no longer appeared in his SALN that year.

But records show that Basa Guidote was revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2003, the same year when Corona said he borrowed P11-M from the company.

The question is: How did the Chief Justice take a loan from a revoked company? And who was receiving his payment from 2005 to 2009?

“We’ll have an SEC official as to the existence of such a coporation because that’s stated in the SALN of Chief Justice Corona. I think it’s important because the charge is failing to disclose accurately the SALN, we have the right to inquire into all these matters,” said prosecution spokesperson Juan Edgardo Angara.

Estafa vs Cristina

The crown jewel of BGEI and its only property was a 1,000 sq-m lot in Manila with a commercial building that was leased to about 8 tenants.

Cristina, various court documents show, claimed she was a stockholder, vice president and assistant corporate secretary of BGEI. She leased the building and collected rentals.

The rest of the Basas disputed this, saying she was never authorized to take over these functions. They further claimed that Cristina did not account for any of the collections.

The Basas sued her for estafa. Cristina sued her aunts and uncles for libel, including Sister Flor who, at the time, was in her early 80s […]

Read the full story >> How did CJ get a loan from ‘dead’ company?

The Tall Order
By Mon Datol
The Philipine Courier
Toronto, Canada

Retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, the lead defense lawyer for CJ Renato Corona in the latter’s impeachment trial, claimed the other day that the Palace is pressuring him to quit his post. Ayaw ni Justice Cuevas.

 Megadz, if Justice Cuevas would only read RA 910 where it states: a retiring justice who is receiving pension from government cannot appear as counsel before any court in a) any civil case wherein the Government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof is the adverse party or in b) any criminal case wherein an officer or employee of the Government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office or c) collect any fee for his appearance in any administrative proceedings to maintain an interest adverse to the Government; he would immediately inhibit himself in the foregoing Corona impeachment …

For delicadeza po.

                                                      *****

CJ Renato Corona told TV reporter Anthony Taberna in a televised interview; “Patayin muna nila ako” (they have to kill me) para mapaalis ‘o mag-leave muna sa Supreme Court habang dinidinig ang kaso niya. Matapang na pananalita na typical of Batanguenos (my elder brod’s wife is a pure Batanguena thus I know such bold statement) when they are alleged to have committed wrong.

Pero, sa tutuo lang ha, it is a brash way of admitting guilt. Para bang mamamatay na muna siya keysa amining nagkasala siya. However, such words, according to my former Malaya and ABANTE publisher Jake Macasaet in one of his columns; ‘never come out of the mouths of people who value self-respect, people who are above others in terms of having had the opportunity to get higher education, particularly law.’ Never nga namang gumamit ng salitang-kalye ang mga edukadong tao, tulad ni Corona.

Okay, Batangueno si Corona, Umiinom ng kapeng barako. Matapang na tao. Machismo. But lawyers and other people worthy to be guests in a television show viewed by people all over the globe to shed light on a sizzling issue would not use street language.

As Sir Jake Macasaet wrote; ‘Only Chief Justice Corona did. He was referring to suggestions that he file a leave of absence while on trial. Or resign before he could be convicted or acquitted. The suggestions came from friends and enemies alike.

‘Friends consider honor as a virtue that must be preserved at all costs, including resignation or filing a leave of absence but definitely not by threatening or daring others even metaphorically, to preserve that honor. It is destroyed rather than preserved.’

“They have to kill me” tells a whole lot about the demeanor of the Chief Justice. The statement demeaned him and his position. He showed the public his inner self, not exactly in relation to what he knows about the Constitution and the laws but more of his attitude towards himself and others.’ And I fully agreed with Sir Jake that’ CJ Corona dishonored the position of Chief Justice. It must be stressed, however, that the statement is not a ground for the Senate to convict or acquit him.’  Pero, kahit na anong mangyari sa ginagawang impeachment trial, matalo, manalo si CJ Corona, olat na olat na siya dahil ang tingin na sa kaniya ng masang Pinoy ..

Matinik na korona nasa ulo niya.

                                                  *****

‘Be happy, be Budoy’ is now one of the most popular street lingos in the Philippines today, courtesy, of course, of ABS-CBN’s teleserye ‘Budoy’ aired in every country where there’s TFC satellite feed, including here in Toronto, Canada where I am glued Mondays to Fridays with my always teary-eyed mamako. Previously, I admired the writers of ‘Budoy’for coming out with this kind of ‘teleserye’ that delves on the mentally-challenge kids.

Okay ang presentation until ‘Budoy’ was struck by thunder and hit his head on the stone. Dahan-dahang ‘gumagaling’ si Budoy at tumatalino, until he became ‘the brightest’ student in campus, a big hit in an IQ TV contest and became ‘Sherlock Homes’ investigating every problem his Maniego family encounters, including his ‘abduction’ when he was a kid. Hindi lang yon, naging girlfriend pa niya ang pinaka-magandang coed ng kanilang university!

Wow! Ang galing ni Budoy! But, what’s really the purpose of this show? Giving false hopes to the parents of mentally-challenged children that they could be like Budoy? What will these parents have to do para maging-Budoy ang kanilang mga mentally-challenged children?

Patamaan sa kidlat at iyumpog ang ulo para gumaling at tumalino?

                                              *****

Am sori po, matatalino at may kaya ang mga magulang ng maraming may mentally-challenged na anak, pero, marami rin pong salat sa yaman at kaalaman na mga magulang na may mentally-challenged kids din. Nanunuod din sila ng ‘Budoy. Sana huwag naman po nating paasahin ang mga magulang na kapos sa pera para mai-pagamot at mapag-aral sa special schools ang kanilang mga anak, na mapaparis sila ke Budoy. Wala pa po akong alam na gamot na magpapagaling sa sakit na tulad ng ke Budoy. Okay, maraming batang followers ng’Budoy’ ang inspirayon si Budoy sa pag-aaral nila, pero, I doubt kung may mga mentally-challenged children na nagiging inspiration ang teleseryeng ‘Budoy’ at kahit papano ay gumagaling sila at natututong maging ‘Budoy.’

Paging the writers of Budoy and the management of ABS CBN, paki-ayos naman istorya ninyo. Or maglagay kayo ng disclaimer na; ‘Budoy is only a television teleserye at hindi isang telemovie that gives positive results to mentally-challenged children. With that disclaimer, pati ako, magsasabing…

Be happy, be Budoy!              

mondatol@rogwers.com

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas 

While the nation remained riveted to the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona for the third week on Monday, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) reported that the Philippines’ economy grew by only 3.7 percent last year, less than half of the 7.6 percent growth registered last year.

NSCB Secretary General Romulo Virola said the “relatively feeble” growth was posted “amidst the obstinate economic woes, the government under-spending on infrastructure in the second and third quarters, and the sustained decline in fishing.”

The 3.7-percent growth rate the Philippines registered in 2011 makes it the second slowest-growing economy among Southeast Asian nations, higher only than that of Thailand, which was severely affected by severe flooding that year.

The gloomy economic report followed an announcement in November by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that foreign direct investment to the Philippines in the first eight months of last year totaled only $810 million, or a 19.2 decline from the $1-billion net inflows in the same period in 2010.

The NSCB report confirmed what respondents feared in a Pulse Asia survey released the other week where 45 percent believed the economy stagnated while 38 percent said the economy worsened in 2011, significantly up from 16 percent who believed the economy worsened in 2010.

On the same day the NSCB report was revealed, the Social Weather Station released survey results that showed the number of Filipino families that claimed they experienced involuntary hunger increased from 4.3 million to 4.5 million in September.

The Pulse Asia Survey on the people’s perception on the economy also showed that the approval rating on President Aquino’s performance in September 2011 slipped to 72 percent, down 5 percent from his 77-percent approval rating the month before. Pulse Asia said what seems to be weighing down on Aquino’s approval rating more than anything else was the economic factor.

While Pulse Asia noted that “disenchantment with the Aquino administration on selected national issues became more pronounced” in the latest survey, the sharpest rise (in terms of percentage points) in disapproval pertained to its efforts at “reducing the poverty of many Filipinos.”

Those who said the administration didn’t do well in this issue went up to 36 percent in November, from 21 percent in May. The percentage of people who disapproved of the government’s ability to create jobs rose to 21 percent from 11 percent. On controlling inflation, the percentage of those who disapproved rose to 37 percent, from 21 percent. On increasing workers’ pay, the disapproval rating increased to 25 percent, from 14 percent.

Clearly, while the people continue to believe in Aquino’s populist moves, such popularity is beginning to erode fast because of his apparent failure in improving the country’s economy and the economic condition of that segment of the population from whom Aquino claims full support and whose interest he claims to protect in his highly controversial moves, including his obsession to oust Corona and his decision to suspend public works contracts and projects that he feared were tainted by corruption.

Aquino’s paranoia has obviously resulted in government paralysis. For example, one of the reasons cited for the slow economic growth is government under-spending. Aquino gloated in his first few months of his administration that for the first time in years, the government was enjoying a budgetary surplus. One of the reasons for this surplus was the suspension of public construction spending, which according to former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, contracted by a staggering 29.4 percent on a full-year basis.

A look at the quarter-by-quarter growth under Aquino shows that government spending has a big impact on the economy. From the 7.3-percent growth in the third quarter, which was a continuation of the growth from the Arroyo administration, the Philippine economy slid to 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, then to 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011, 3.1 percent in the second quarter, before slightly recovering at 3.6 percent and 3.7 percent in the fourth when he finally increased infrastructure spending.

For more than one year, Aquino suspended nearly all public works contracts and projects because he feared that most of them were tainted by corruption. He also ordered cuts in the budgets of government agencies, which, in addition to the freeze in public works expenditures, resulted to a virtual economic standstill. Since there were no projects, investments were constricted, no jobs were created, and, naturally, economic growth declined.

Most economic experts blamed Aquino’s inaction for the country’s poor economic performance. Aquino obviously was consumed by his obsession to oust Corona and destroy all those he perceives to be blocking his reform agenda.

While the people supported him during the presidential election and continue to have faith in his reform agenda, Aquino cannot continue to make his anti-corruption efforts as an excuse for not attending to the other equally important mission he promised the people – to alleviate poverty and bring back the country to economic recovery.

Aquino has to find a way to pursuing his goal of “daang matuwid” while steering the economy to the right path. The government cannot hope to eradicate corruption if the people remain poor and hungry. Neither can he continue to expect support from a people gripped by hunger and poverty.

The slogan works both ways: “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” is just as true as “Kung mababawasan ang kahirapan, mababawasan din ang corruption.”

(valabelgas@aol.com)

Balitang America
ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Contrary to claims by her husband, Marissa Lapid said the money confiscated from her by United States airport officials is for a “house.”

Senator Lito Lapid said on Thursday that his wife had no malicious intentions with the money found by US airport officials in her luggage in the Las Vegas International Airport.

Lapid said her wife Marissa needed it for the treatment of her heart condition. “Medyo naharang siya doon dahil sobra ang dala niyang pera siguro dahil nagpapagamot siya dahil may sakit siya eh,” the senator had said.

Marissa was arrested after arriving at the Las Vegas International Airport last Jan. 15. The arrest was based on a warrant issued last Jan. 5 for allegedly smuggling $50,000 in cash last Nov. 27.

In a copy of the arrest warrant obtained by ABS-CBN North America News Bureau’s Bev Llorente, the senator’s wife said she only had with her $10,000 and P10,000 in cash.

A Customs and Border Patrol officer said: “Lapid explained that she answered ‘no’ to question number 13 on the CBP form 6059b because of her understanding that the question specifically applied currency over 10 thousand US dollars.”

“I’m sorry, it’s for my house,” Marissa supposedly said. “I screwed up,” she also supposedly said several times.

Upon final inspection, the money contained in her bag was worth $50,137 and P15,700 ($356).

Customs officers gave back only $493.

She is currently out on bail. She will be wearing an ankle monitoring system while waiting for her case before the US District Court in Nevada. The hearing will be held on February 7 there.

https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&view=bsp&ver=ohhl4rw8mbn4

Source: Philippine Star
MANILA (Xinhua) — The plan to expand United States military presence in the Philippines as agreed during the Jan. 27 bilateral dialogue in Washington, D.C. has been assailed by the country’s groups but defended by officials of the government of President Benigno Aquino, III.
Teodoro Casino, a party-list member of the House of Representatives representing Bayan Muna (Country First), said that there is no need for the expansion of U.S. military presence in the country. He even called for a congressional probe into the planned deal.
“We were able to get rid of the U.S. bases and we are still fighting against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), we do not need the government to once again sell out our sovereignty,” Casino said in a statement.
The VFA, signed in l999, allows the temporary stay in the country of American military forces but only during joint military exercises and other non-combatant operations.
Casino said that the review of the VFA, which the Aquino administration has agreed to, has not even started yet but “we are going to enter a new agreement that would further put us in a disadvantaged position.”
According to Casino, the U.S. move to reassert its military presence in the Pacific Ocean is not merely intended to block China’s so-called increasing dominance in the region but “to stave off the U.S. floundering economy.”
Other groups also denounced the plan for increased military cooperation with the U.S..
Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance), has assailed the port calls in Manila and Cebu of two American warships, saying these “were already part of the heightened U.S. power projection in Asia as stated in the new U.S. defense strategy.”
The U.S. embassy in Manila said that the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer was to make a port call in Manila over the weekend while the USS Chafee was to visit the port of Cebu.
Reyes said that the U.S. may not even need formal bases in the Philippines given the access and virtual basing opportunities that they have now under the VFA.
But Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that while the Philippines would accept an increased U.S. military presence in the country this would be in accordance with Philippine laws that ban the basing of foreign troops.
Del Rosario said that increased military presence could include more and more frequent joint exercises and a greater number of U.S. troops rotating through the country.
“It is to our definite advantage to be exploring how to maximize our treaty alliance with the United States in ways that would be mutually acceptable and beneficial,” Del Rosario said in a statement.
In the Washington dialogue, both the Philippines and the U.S agreed to shift into high gear their cooperation in maritime security, defense and law enforcement as provided for in the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed in l951 by the two countries.
“We reinforced the significance of our Mutual Defense Treaty as the basis for the alliance and the treaty’s continued relevance to the peace, security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific,” the joint communique issued after the dialogue said.
Del Rosario said that if there would be threats to the country’ s national interest, it should be prepared to deal with these issues diplomatically. “To complement the diplomatic approach we must at the very least also endeavor to achieve a minimum credible defense posture,” he said.
In Malacanang, Presidential Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said that there was a convergence of interests in the need of the Philippines to upgrade its defense capability and the U.S. desire to make its presence felt in the Asia-Pacific.
Carandang said the U.S. is not just talking to the Philippines on having their presence felt but also to other countries in Asia like Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Australia.
Del Rosario and other officials stressed that any U.S. military buildup would be in accordance with Philippine law, which bans any foreign troops from being permanently based in the country.
The U.S. maintained two large military bases in the Philippines but was forced to abandon them in l992 after the Philippine Senate voted down a new agreement crafted by the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino.
But even without the American bases, a rotating force of about 600 U.S. troops has been stationed in Mindanao for the past decade but purely on non-combatant role, such as training Filipino soldiers in the fight against Islamic extremists.